Self-proclaimed 'townie,' Ozmun is 2021 Heywood award winner | News

The 2021 Heywood Award winner is a man from Northfield who has spent most of his life making the community safer.

The Defeat of Jesse James Days Organizing Committee on Monday identified Ray Ozmun as the recipient of the Joseph Lee Heywood Distinguished Service Award.

The award is named after the bank teller who was murdered by the James Younger gang during the famous 1876 raid commemorated each year during Northfield’s defeat by Jesse James Days. Heywood reportedly refused to open the bank’s vault and was subsequently shot dead.

While Ozmun’s life story is less famous than the attack on James, it is arguably no less exciting.

As a young man he served in the Korean War. After returning to the States, he worked in construction until he moved to the Northfield Police Department in hopes of a more consistent paycheck.

Ozmun told the News that he was still in his three-month probationary period when a phone call interrupted his lunch break late that night in the spring of 1959, an officer who went over to intervene. The couple caught up with the robbers when they tried to escape the Eagles Club building and split up in pursuit of them. Ozmun fired a shot from his service revolver as a warning, but instead of stopping, the man he was chasing turned and fired back at him. A brief shootout ensued near the Northfield National Bank (not to be confused with the First National Bank, which was attacked by the James Gang). Although no one was injured, the robber escaped and fled through an alley on Division Street.

“I emptied my revolver when he ran across the sidewalk, but I only got three cars and the door to a dental office,” Ozmun recalled ironically.

Ozmun said the law finally caught up with the fugitive, who dropped his glasses at the scene and authorities traced the glasses back to him.

Ozmun went on to serve as a volunteer firefighter. Even after leaving the front line fire department, he continued his passion for public safety as a member of the Rural Fire Board for Waterford Township for nearly four decades. He was heavily involved with both the American Legion and the Sons of the American Legion and has served as their state chairman since 1979.

Jerry Anderson, another Northfielder native, has known Ozmun for about 60 years, having met Ozmun in 1968 when they were both firefighters.

“Ray is a very caring person willing to go out of their way to help others,” said Anderson. “When something is needed, he steps forward quietly. He’s terribly connected and uses those connections to improve the community. “

Anderson described Ozmun as a true Northfield “townie” – a term Ozmun applied to himself as well. Not only does Ozmun and his wife Mary live in the area, but also his three children and seven grandchildren, he said.

“I was baptized and confirmed and married and graduated from high school in Northfield,” said Ozmun.

Contact reporter Zach Kayser at 507-645-1115. © Copyright 2021 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

By ayunda